“Some of the world’s greatest men and women have been saddled with disabilities and adversities but have managed to overcome them,” observed author and evangelical leader Ted W. Engstrom
Engstrom offered these illustrations to prove his point.
“Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott.”
“Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan.”
“Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington.”
“Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln.”
“Subject him to bitter religious prejudice, and you have a Benjamin Disraeli.”
“Strike him down with infantile paralysis, and he becomes a Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
“Burn him so severely in a schoolhouse fire that the doctors say he will never walk again, and you have a Glenn Cunningham, who set a world’s record in 1934 for running a mile in 4 minutes, 6.7 seconds.”
“Deafen a genius composer, and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven.”
“Have him or her born black in a society filled with racial discrimination, and you have a Booker T. Washington, a Harriet Tubman, a Marian Anderson, or a George Washington Carver.”
“Make him the first child to survive in a poor Italian family of eighteen children, and you have an Enrico Caruso.”
“Have him born of parents who survived a Nazi concentration camp, paralyze him from the waist down when he is four, and you have an incomparable concert violinist, Itzhak Perlman.”
“Call him a slow learner, ‘retarded,’ and write him off as uneducable, and you have an Albert Einstein.
All of these examples speak to the power of persistence and the quality of determination. It’s a trait we see in the apostle Paul, who overcame a “thorn in the flesh,” misrepresentation by false teachers, beatings, stoning, imprisonment, and numerous hardships in his missionary travels. We get a glimpse of his indomitable spirit from Philippians 3:13-14
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
This week we’re writing about our 2021 theme: “Reaching Forward.” It’s based on this text, written from a Roman prison toward the end of Paul’s life.
There are at least 4 essential elements involved if we want to reach forward to win the race, fulfill God’s purpose in our lives, and receive the heavenly reward. In two previous posts, we’ve considered the importance of devotion and direction. Today, let’s think about determination.
I once heard Dee Bowman say that Philippians 3:14 was his favorite scripture and specifically the words “I press.” The Greek verb translated “I press” means to “run swiftly.” Thayer writes that it’s used metaphorically with the idea of eagerly and earnestly pursuing something. Wiersbe says the Greeks used to word to describe a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. Whether the race is a chariot race or Olympic runners the word expresses determination. Fortitude. And persistence.
If we are to successfully reach forward in pursuit of our spiritual endeavors we must embody this spirit of determination. It says, “I can.” “I must.” “I will.”
Spiritual determination challenges us to change. Motivates us to improve. Enables us to move forward. Calls on our nobler ideals. Inspires us to do more. And sustains us through difficulties.
Determination drives us to…
…Endure Satan’s assaults.
…Defeat inordinate desires.
…Break hurtful habits.
…Remain calm during turbulent times.
…Hold fast to our faith.
…Fortify our hope.
…Love the unlovable.
…De-escalate conflict in relationships
…Weather the storm of unpleasant circumstances.
…Deny selfish ambition.
…Bear our own burdens.
…Grow in the Christian graces.
…Develop the fruit of the Spirit.
…And remain faithful unto death.
Finally, the words of our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge, challenge us to keep reaching forward.
Nothing in the world
Can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not;
Nothing is more common
Than unsuccessful men
Genius will not:
Is almost a proverb.
Education will not;
The world is full of
Persistence and determination
Alone are omnipotent.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman